Since gardening is a constant learning experience for adults, it might as well be one for kids, too! Whether your garden is in a planning, planting, maintaining, or harvesting phase, there is always something to learn and explore. Even the most reluctant youngster can be drawn into the gardening hobby with the right amount of support and guidance, and Love Your Yard has some ideas on how to do it. Read on!
Let Them Be Kids
First and foremost, you should expect and understand that your new helpers are kids, and your aim is to let them have a good time.
- Expect them to get distracted by interesting things. Definitely allow them to do this!
- If they say something is boring, talk them about what they’re doing. Turn their focus away from being bored and pique their curiosity.
- Don’t be surprised if they get dirty or wet. Gardening is the perfect opportunity for getting messy.
- To help them get excited (and remain excited) about gardening, try offering them gardening themed rewards. Kid-sized gloves, rakes, spades and watering cans are all great rewards. Make sure you show them the value of keeping their tools in top shape!
- Let them enjoy the benefits of their gardening efforts. Allow them to try samples right there in the garden. Have them join you the kitchen and prepare a full meal with the veggies they’ve helped to grow. Let them pick flowers for grandma.
Delegate TasksChildren appreciate having a sense of purpose. Having a purpose builds their self-esteem and gives them confidence, and gardening can be part of your effort to build up that self-esteem.
To get them into gardening, make a list of duties for your kids to complete in the garden. Before you get too overzealous with your list, remember that the concept of “gardening for kids” should equate to tasks that aren’t too overwhelming for their age. Duties can include weeding, watering, or picking ripe veggies.
Of those three, weeding is the toughest chore. Start by showing your youngster the best way to weed and perform the task with the child for a few weeks before allowing them to go solo. Weeding the entire garden is probably too big of a task for all but the most dedicated kid. Instead, ask them to weed one or two rows and challenge them to beat you in a contest of who can pull the most weeds from a single row. Remember you want this to be a bonding experience, so you need to come up with opportunities to work together while offering them some independence.
Between weeding, watering, and harvesting, your youngster will soon understand some of the basic facets of caring for plants.
Make your gardening a real educational experience! Have your kids research the plants you’ll grow and have them document their progress once they are in the ground.
Start with the research. Once you’ve figured out what plants you’ll have in your garden or flowerbeds, provide your youngsters a list and put them to work. Ask them to collect information about each plant, such as:
- Planting times and harvesting times
- Time to maturation
- Amount of water recommended
- Amount of sunlight needed
- Uses for the plant (i.e. herbs, medicinal, etc.)
- Is it a perennial, biannual, etc.?
- Common pests and how to stop them
Once your plants are in the ground, ask your children to begin to monitor the plants. With a tape measure, notepad, and pencil, they can collect the following information each week:
- Plant Height
- Plant circumference
- Number of leaves
- Number of fruits, vegetables, or flowers
- Size of fruits, vegetables, or flowers
- Color changes
- Presence of pests
- General condition
Get to Know the VisitorsRemember gardening for kids doesn’t have to exclusively be about plants!
Take time to show your children or grandchildren the animals visiting their yard and gardens. Are certain creatures attracted to your plants? Are butterflies or hummingbirds drawn to a specific flower? Take note of these with your children and look into why they are fans of one plant over another. Involving an animal element is a great way to interest youngsters in the outdoors.
When learning about the creatures in your yard and garden, remember there are many kinds of visitors. Consider discussing:
- Rabbits, groundhogs, mice, and other furry creatures that visit the garden
- Slugs, snails and other invertebrates
- The variety of birds in your yard. Which ones eat from a feeder? Which ones eat bugs?
- Insects that fly and how they help or hurt your garden
- Insects that live underground
- Insect life cycles and how some can be garden pests
- Stray domestic pets and their plight
- Animal friendly solutions for removing pests
You also have the option to plant gardens that attract certain animals. A butterfly garden or garden to attract hummingbirds are excellent opportunities explore gardening for kids. They can plan the plants in advance, maintain them, and study the behaviors of certain animals drawn to the plants.
Explore the ArtsNot all of your efforts with children in the garden need to be scientific studies — art is a great way to explore gardening for kids. You can let their natural artistic inclinations develop their interest in gardening and the outdoors.
- Collect plant leaves, dab them in trays of paint and then press the leaves on to paper (or fabric or other materials) to create elaborate designs and prints.
- Bring out a big box of crayons and have the child match crayon colors with all the colors on a particular plant, including its stems, fruits, flowers, and leaves. Create a color guide for your favorite plants.
- Try sketching plants and all their parts. Add the colors to replicate its appearance and texture.
- Gather leaves, twigs, and other items to make a natural collage.
- Ask your child to write a poem, song, or story based on what he or she sees in the garden.
- Lend them your camera phone and have them take pictures of the garden. Print out the best and frame them.
- Try using various plant parts as paint brushes. Imagine how much paint a sprig of broccoli can hold!
The opportunities for mixing various art forms with your efforts in the garden are endless. Don’t hesitate to explore your own ideas!
Connect with Nature
Kids today more than ever are spending more time inside and in front of screens, whether it is a game, tablet, phone, or TV. Get them outside and digging in the dirt. They need fresh air in their lungs, fresh dirt between their toes, and the smells and sights of a garden. Gardening and outdoor time is beneficial to everyone, especially young folk.
Not only will the educational experience and time outdoors benefit your kids, but so will the memories your family is sure to make while spending time in the garden together.
Gardening for Kids
How are you gardening with youngsters? Leave a comment below and tell us all about it! Got pictures or ideas on gardening for kids? Visit us on Facebook and post them there.
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